By Olivia Timm
BELLEVILLE – It is an exciting time for Leafs fans as the team makes its way to playoffs for the first time in four years.
People from the area say they are feeling a sense of surprise – whether a fan of the team or not.
Ben Forgie is a Television and New Media professor at Loyalist College and has been a Leafs fan since he was a young boy collecting hockey cards.
He and his father often watch the Leafs games together, but when they beat the Penguins 5-3 Saturday night to score a spot in playoff action, he said it was a special night.
“When we get together to watch them, often they don’t win, we call each other ‘bad luck’ and things of that nature. We got together Saturday and watched the game, we might have had to walk to the laundry room a couple of times because I was too nervous, but it was pretty special when
they clinched it,” said Forgie.
Loyalist students, past and present, said the win surprised them as well.
Steven Sedore is an avid Leafs fan and graduate of the Electrical Engineering program at the college.
“It’s obviously very exciting to be in playoffs, and they have already far exceeded my expectations. They maintained their position in the standings in hunt of a playoff spot, and then with them going on the run they did after deadline cemented it,” said Sedore.
He says there is no better hockey than playoff hockey.
On the other hand, Trent University student and hockey fan, Clinton Davis, said the team has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Although the Leafs are not his favourite team, he said he was shocked to see them make the playoffs.
“I was surprised because at the start of the season, they were not expected to make the playoffs. Especially with the number of rookies, but Austin Matthews scored 40 goals to lead the team,” said Davis.
MATTHEWS 40 GOALS! LEAFS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS! 5-3 WIN! #tmltalk
— Leafs Society (@LeafsSociety) April 9, 2017
Even for fans who lost interest in the team, news of the Leafs making it to the playoffs is drawing them back in.
Jack Miller has been the sports director for Quinte Broadcasting for more than 30 years. He said he was turned off the team for a number of years, but he is excited to see how the team does in playoffs.
“I was a Leafs fan way back in the day when I thought they had a lot of class. Back in the 80s, it was a very turbulent time for the team, they did some things under the late Harold Ballard that I thought were pretty disgusting, and it kind of lost me as a fan back then. As much as it’s great to see them do well and I’m kind of excited with what they’re doing right now, I’ve never really regained that fan status I had when I was growing up.”
He says that the team has improved in the last year, and he’s excited to see them do well.
“I get excited about young teams that excel and go beyond what’s expected. I think this Toronto team, with seven rookies to start – and when you consider where they were, the rebuild they went through, Brendan Shanahan establishing a process that they have not deviated from – I think they were able to maintain the interest from the fans.”
With the news of the Leafs making the playoffs, Miller says his reaction was anticlimactic because the team was expected to clinch a week earlier than they did. He says as the team lost some key games, the nail-biting began.
“Until you absolutely, officially clinch it, you always have that one little sliver of doubt, but in the minds of Leafs fans, that little sliver is probably more like a two-by-four.”
Of the original six NHL teams, five of them have made it to playoffs – the odd man out being Detroit.
Miller says this is an exciting time for hockey fans.
“I’m excited there’s five teams in the playoffs. After none made it last year, that was just downright embarrassing. The fact that five made it this year, and the fact that it’s Toronto, and let’s face it, that excitement comes this way.”
The Maple Leafs have exceeded many expectations this far, and Miller says if they do get by Washington, it will be a huge upset.
Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Washington Capitals in the first round of playoffs tonight at 7 p.m.